Atlas Insider: Befriend Your Fishmonger

Many years ago, one Miss Martha Stewart had the nerve to look directly into the camera and say to me personally, “Befriend your fishmonger.” I mean. Befriend your fishmonger! “Who is she talking to?” I wondered, as I closely examined the extensive collection of 29-cent ramen noodles in my pantry.

Her point was that if I was on good terms with my fishmonger, I might have better luck getting him to filet or debone a fish, or devein shrimp, or meunière a sole or whatEVER it was I might be needing in the elaborate fish preparation department for all the seafood banquets she seemed to think I’d be hosting.

I bring this up now because the shipping department at Atlas is seeing a lot of notes on orders that say things like, “Leave package on porch” or “Place box behind bush next to the west veranda” or “Remove head from Mamie Eisenhower bust , place package inside, replace Mamie Eisenhower head.”

Now look: we write these notes on the boxes when we see them, but that’s really the most we can do. There’s no guarantee the request will be honored. We don’t get to talk to your mailman. I have it on good authority (that would be our mailman) that most postal workers don’t ever even see these instructions. Their little beep-beep robot scanners don’t hold those personal messages, so they never even really notice them.

If they have a traditional mailbox route, their job ends at getting the mail in the mailbox, even though you went to all that trouble to acquire that clever Mamie Eisenhower-shaped theft deterrent box from the SkyMall catalog. If a package fits in your regular mailbox, that’s the quickest option and that’s the option they’re going to take.

But—and there’s always a “but”—here’s the interesting part. When I asked the mailman the best way to communicate those messages to postal workers on the receiving end, he said the best thing we could hope for was that the recipient of a package (that would be you!) had befriended his or her mailman. Turns out that a smile and a wave or an occasional “Hi” gets a mailman out of the truck and up onto a porch and deploying any of the various ways you’ve invented to outwit porch pirates faster than any poorly-scrawled-with- a-Sharpie note ever will.

So I tried it at my own house. I have two different regular mail carriers. Monday-Thursday Guy and Friday/Saturday Lady. Historically, both of them have practically been Masters-degree holders in mailbox-stuffing and I have had to use a crowbar more than once to get packages out of the box. During the run-up to Christmas last year, though, I made it a point to be outside a few times when the mail truck came by and waved and said “Hi” when I was near the mailbox and—here’s the trick!—made eye contact.

Reader, it was like magic. Ever since, every single package I’ve ordered that utilized USPS delivery has been carefully placed inside the Bess Truman Lockbox on my porch (when it comes to First Lady Security Devices, there are Eisenhower people and there are Truman people, and never—never!—the twain shall meet). I know that seems like nothing but anecdotal evidence, but I think if we’ve learned anything over the past two years, it’s that random anecdotal evidence we’ve gleaned from the internet is far, far more trustworthy than science or statistics.

I really should have known to not question Martha. When will I learn? When will I learn? Get to know your mailman. Befriend your fishmonger.

A Giveaway

The prize? Thanks to Abrams Books, we have five copies of Knitstrips: The World’s First Comic-Strip Knitting Book by Alice Ormsbee Beltran and Karen Kim Mar to give away!

Read more about the book here in Kay’s celebratory welcome. And while you’re there, download a free pattern from Knitstrips!

How to enter?

Two steps:

Step 1: Sign up for our weekly newsletter, Snippets, right here. If you’re already subscribed, you’re set.

Step 2: What’s the best advice it took you way too long to take? Tell us in the comments.

Deadline for entries: Sunday, March 27, 11:59 PM Central time. We’ll draw winners from the entries and notify them by email.

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